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Old 03-08-2021, 06:41 PM   #31 (permalink)
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Character growth

Obviously, a great leader does not stay the same as the day he took command; people grow and develop, and it is in the evolution of the character that the persona of what could grow to be a truly great captain is demonstrated. Everyone from Janeway to Sisko have gone through experiences that have changed them, not always for the better but always adding to the sum of their knowledge and to their lives, and which inform the development of their character.

Picard of course went through one of the most life-changing --- literally --- experiences one can go through when he was assimilated and used as a general against his own race by the Borg, but then Kirk lost his son to the Klingons. Both of these are of course likely to either strengthen or destroy resolve, and as you might expect, in each case the captain used his tragedy to make him a better person. Kirk was demoted at the end of The voyage home, something that never happened to Picard, though the latter was tortured by his enemy while Kirk never was, not really. Though he was imprisoned by them, in a penal colony in The Undiscovered Country. Plenty of character building there. I think in fairness this has to be called a draw, which leaves us with the scores still tied at 9-9.


Anyone can use a phaser, but sometimes the true measure of a man, and this goes doubly for a captain, is when he can defend himself without weapons. Kirk has certainly had his share of fisticuffs fights (The Gorn in “Arena” springs to mind) but I can’t recall Picard every going mano a mano with anyone. I could be wrong here, but I just don’t remember him punching out anyone or fighting without his weapon. If he didn’t, then Kirk has to take this round as the man’s man, and so we have a slight lead for him as the scores now stand at

10-9 to Kirk

Alien Nemesis

Every captain, like every superhero, needs an arch-enemy to keep him on his toes and at the top of his game. Kirk doesn’t have one (who said Harry Mudd??) but Picard does: his name is Q. Picard wins this easily, which gets us back to a draw situation.


Let’s stop here for a moment and look at how this battle has developed. For the first six or so categories Kirk was well on top, kicking the competition into the unrealistic sand and pulling way ahead. It seemed he would never be caught and victory was a foregone conclusion, open and shut case, Picard knocked out by the seventh round. But then suddenly the French captain started to drag himself up off the ground and began to fight back, till they were evenly matched. Then he even started to pull away a little before Kirk came back off the ropes, and since then the two have been pretty evenly matched. It's gonna take something special to separate these two titans of Trek!

How about Friends in High Places?

It always helps to have contacts back at Starfleet, for those moments when you need a word in the right ear. For the greater part of their career both are captains, so we’ll focus on that. While in command of the original Enterprise, Kirk knew of course other captains, but seemed to mostly kow-tow to admirals and other higher-ups. Picard seems to move in different circles; while he of course respects and obeys the chain of command, he is often more on first-name terms with some of the “brass” in Starfleet. This could be seen as a result of his having had a different education perhaps than Kirk, of moving in different, maybe higher social circles or simply through taking the time to make contacts (Picard is, for instance, a lot more likely to have gone to the opera or theatre and there met an admiral or two, the “meeting on the golf course” idea, than we would expect Kirk to). It could also be that Picard is seen as more the diplomat whereas Kirk, as we have already established, prefers to be the soldier, and diplomats, even part-time ones tend to mix in better company and get the opportunities to rub shoulders with their superiors.

So in terms of people in authority he can call on, or favours he can call in, Picard would appear to win this one.

11-10 to Picard

Education and upbringing

While there’s nothing that says you have to be a bookworm or a university graduate to captain a starship, the gulf between the two men in terms of how well they were educated seems to be quite large. Picard, as you would expect from his character, reads heavily, is into poetry, philosophy, history, art and music, whereas Kirk has never given any evidence of pursuing any of these subjects. He’s a rough-and-ready, kick-in-the-balls guy whereas Picard is a more talk to them and try to find common ground person. Left alone with a well-read ambassador, for instance, Picard could most likely hold forth on many weighty topics and hold his own, whereas Kirk would probably be glancing around looking for star babes he could seduce. Well, maybe not that bad, but you can’t really see him discussing the virtues of Plato vs Marx, or the works of Caravaggio as an example of man’s quest to become immortal by transcending his human limitations, now can you? Debatewise, bookswise and in general level of education, Picard has to win this one.

12-10 to Picard


No, neither has any children, but how do they relate to the little bast -- ah, cherubs? Well Picard makes it clear from the very beginning that he does not do well with kids, evidenced fairly quickly in his reaction to Wesley Crusher, and his subsequent dealings with the little folk. He does however redeem himself slightly during the episode “Disaster”, where he manages to keep all the children trapped in the turbolift with him calm, and saves them all. Mind you, he goes about this by essentially applying adult attitudes to them, so is it that big an achievement? Still, eh tries so he have to give him that. Kirk, on the other hand, seems quite comfortable with children, as we see in "Miri", "And the children shall lead" and other episodes. This may be because his brother has children, so he is obviously Uncle Jim, or perhaps more pointedly because he does not have to deal with them on the ship. In fairness, neither does Picard: the odd time he might come across one playing in the corridors but it’s not like they’ve a nursery on the bridge or anything.

No, I think all in all this one has to go to Kirk, definitely the less scary and more approachable and human of the two father figures we know as captains of two very different Enterprises.

12-11 to Kirk

Physical shape?

Of course a captain needs to be in good, if not totally tip-top shape and whereas we’ve seen Kirk’s manly chest more than a few times as he attends a physical in sickbay and pumps those weird pedals on the wall (what the hell are they for anyway?), not to mention that we’ve never heard of him suffering from any longterm illness or ailment, we're back to that artificial heart that was installed to save Picard's life after he was stabbed by an alien. That in itself, while making something of a badass of the good captain, does detract from his physical fitness score and leads almost to his death when it malfunctions in “Tapestry”, and therefore has to count against him. So Kirk wins this round to, levelling the score again.


And I’ve run out of categories and criteria under which to compare the two. Although initially Kirk ran away with the contest, Picard rallied and they were soon neck and neck. Despite the odd time when one or the other got the upper hand, I find at the end I really can’t separate them, and so the final verdict: is Kirk or Picard the better captain? I don’t know. They’re evenly matched and I’d have to call this the first draw in any of my showdowns.
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Old 03-09-2021, 02:24 PM   #32 (permalink)
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There's an old adage, “adapt and survive” which kind of echoes the mantra of the Borg, “Resistance is futile.” Though the first movie had made its budget three times over in box office takings, I don't believe this qualifies it as a success, and certainly the panning and derision it received from critics and fans alike made it obvious that major changes needed to happen if there was to be a second movie. So the creator of Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry himself, was dispensed with, and mindful of the comparatively low returns of the previous movie, execs declared that things must be run on a much tighter budget, leaving composers like Miklós Rózsa and Jerry Goldsmith out of the price range of the second movie. This led to the first ever job for a young James Horner, who would of course go on to not only compose what remains the best and most identifiable of the Trek movie soundtracks, but would become a successful and sought-after composer himself.

This time, they would get it right. The camaraderie between the three main leads, which had been badly missing from TMP, the space battles, the references back to the original series, the ship itself, the uniforms, and, most importantly, the storyline. The second of the franchise still stands for me, and for many others, as the archetypal Star Trek movie and the benchmark by which all future versions would be judged.

Title: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Released: 1982
Writer(s): Jack B. Sowards/ Nicholas Meyer (uncredited)
Director: Nicholas Meyer
Starring: All the usual Star Trek crew plus: Ricardo Montalban as Khan Noonien Singh, Bibi Besch as Dr. Carol Marcus , Merrit Butrick as David Marcus, Kirstie Alley as Lt. Saavik, Paul Winfield as Captain Terrell
Runtime: 132 minutes
Budget: USD 11.2 million
Boxoffice: USD 97 million
Critical acclaim: Extremely high
Fan acclaim: Extremely high
Legacy: Saved the franchise and set the tone for all future Star Trek movies. Also featured the death of one of the series' best-loved and most famous characters.
Enterprise: NCC-1701

We open on the unfamiliar sight of the Enterprise under a new captain, a Vulcan called Saavik. She is projecting a course to avoid the Neutral Zone when they pick up a distress call from a civilian ship called Kobyashi Maru, which has been damaged and which is now drifitng inside the Neutral Zone. Having no other choice, Saavik sets course for the border but as they reach the co-ordinates where the stricken freighter is meant to be they find nothing. Then Klingon attack cruisers show up and start firing. The situation looks hopeless, and it is. The Enterprise is soon overwhelmed, all crew killed but all is not as it seems. This is merely a simulation, and Kirk arrives to grade the new captain.

In point of fact, it is Spock who is in command of the Enterprise, Kirk having been relegated to flying a desk again as an admiral, and he is not happy about it. Today is his birthday, and he is feeling old. Chekov, meanwhile, is first officer on the USS Reliant, a science vessel which is searching for a lifeless planet to serve as the testbed for something he calls “the Genesis Experiment”. The ship is in orbit around Ceti Alpha VI, and they pick up a faint signal which looks like it could be some kind of lifeform, however basic. They check in with the scientific mission they are assigned to and are told by Dr. Carol Marcus that they have to be sure there are no lifeforms on the planet before they recommend it to Starfleet as a suitable subject. Chekov and his captain duly beam down. The planet is a desert world, lashed by high winds and sandstorms, and seems totally incapable of supporting life. But the signal persists.

Against all odds, they find a rough cabin in the middle of the wilderness, and going inside it appears to be someone’s home, although it is at the moment deserted. As they look it over, Chekov sees debris from a ship called the S.S. Botany Bay, and suddenly a terrible realisation dawns on him, and he urges his captain in something of a panic to leave, to get back to the ship before … but it is too late. Someone has come out of the desert and is standing outside, a large figure, with others around it. To Chekov’s growing horrified realisation he sees it is indeed Khan Noonien Singh, the genetically enhanced leader of the remnants of the survivors of the Eugenics Wars, which took place in the late twentieth century on Earth, and whom Captain Kirk rescued from suspended animation in the original episode “Space seed”. For anyone who hasn’t seen the episode, a quick recap: well, that’s kind of it really. Khan and his people, supermen from Earth’s twentieth century who would have made Hitler’s ubermensch look like fairies, exiled from Earth in suspended animation are rescued as they drift in space.

Having been revived, Khan and his people try to take over the Enterprise and kill Kirk, but are defeated and sent into another exile, on a planet which is hostile but capable of supporting life. When Khan tells Chekov and Captain Terrell that the one of the other planets in the system exploded six months later and knocked Ceti Alpha V --- where they are now, thinking it is Ceti Alpha VI --- out of orbit and changing its geosphere, he realises that this is a chance meeting. The Reliant was not looking for him. So why did they come here? To find out, he inserts little creatures into their heads via their ears. These alien insects make the recipient susceptible to suggestion, in effect make them do or say anything they are told to.

Oblivious to all of this, Kirk inspects the Enterprise and takes her out on a training mission, while on Space Station Regula One, Dr. Marcus gets an odd call from the Reliant, to say that the planet has checked out and they are en route. Marcus is surprised, as they were not due to return for months yet. Chekov tells her that they are to transfer all material pertaining to the Genesis Project to that ship, and further, that the order comes from Kirk. David, her son, worries that they are now defenceless if they refuse to give up the material. Chekov of course is under Khan’s control, he and his people having taken control of the starship. When Marcus tries to contact Kirk to confirm the order, Khan ensures that her transmission is blocked, and he can’t understand what she’s talking about. He has never heard of Genesis. Not a fan of Phil Collins then!

On Spock’s recommendation Kirk takes command of the Enterprise as they head to Regula One to investigate, and on the way they query the computer to find out what Genesis is. It turns out to be a sort of terraforming tool, which can turn a dead world into a thriving, living ecosphere in a fraction of the time it would normally take. As Marcus says in the presentation they watch, Genesis is literally life from lifelessness. McCoy wonders and worries about the possibility of the device being perverted into a weapon, and Kirk knows they must hurry to the space station. En route though they encounter the Reliant, unaware that it is under Khan’s control. As they have no reason to suspect anything they are taken by surprise. The Enterprise, without shields, is taken totally by surprise as battle is joined. Badly damaged, crippled even, it lists in space as Kirk is amazed to see the face of his old adversary on the screen, commanding the Reliant. Thinking quickly, he surrenders but tells Khan he needs time to transfer the information about Project Genesis that the madman has demanded, time he uses to have their computer decode the shield frequency of the opposing ship and order it to lower its shields, whereupon Enterprise fights back, badly damaging the enemy. Unable to pursue it as it breaks off and limps away, Kirk must wait until impulse power has been re-established and they can continue to Regula One.

Where they find most of the scientists butchered, and Chekov and Terrell hiding in a cabinet. Chekov tells him about Khan, but that the scientists died without revealing the whereabouts of Genesis. Kirk figures out that that Marcus and her people beamed to the surface of the planetoid the station orbits; or rather, into its interior as it is lifeless. They follow them down and Kirk is reunited with his old girlfriend and his son, only to find that Chekov and Terrell are still under the control of Khan, waiting for the moment when the location of the device is revealed. When it is, Khan beams it up, but when he orders them to kill Kirk they resist, Terrell turning the phaser on himself while the creature in Chekov is forced out of his brain by the conflicting emotions and killed. Kirk and his people now are trapped though in the interior of the planetoid as Khan flies off, victorious.

Kirk renews his acquaintance with Carol Marcus, and they talk about why David, her son, his son, does not want to have anything to do with him. Marcus shows him what they have done with the Genesis Experiment, the cave entirely transformed into a living planet. Kirk reveals how he beat the Kobyashi Maru situation, by cheating. He reprogrammed the simulation so he could win. Saavik is not impressed. Kirk contacts the Enterprise and says “It’s been two hours. Are you ready?” Spock confirms they are --- hours mean days: see the quotes section for further --- and they are all beamed aboard the ship and head for their confrontation with Khan. Still outgunned and at less than full power, Kirk leads him into the nearby Mutara Nebula, where the interference from gas and magnetic disruption will even the odds a little. Khan takes the bait, following the Enterprise in. The battle is a little unorthodox, as neither ship has shields nor phaser lock, but Kirk eventually scores hits on the Reliant, crippling the enemy ship.

Faced with defeat, unable to manouevre and with his people dying around him, Khan clings to revenge to the last. Determining to take Kirk with him, he uses his final breath to commit the Genesis Device to operation, ensuring that all life in this sector will be destroyed. The Enterprise, still under impulse power, has no chance of escape. As they limp away, knowing they will never make it before the explosion, Spock leaves his post and goes to Engineering. Incapacitating Mr. Scott, he walks into the antimatter chamber and manually changes the dilithium crystals, regaining warp speed and the Enterprise is saved, just as the Reliant explodes.

Spock, however, has paid the ultimate price for the safety of his ship and crew, and in an emotional death scene tells Kirk not to grieve; he has done the logical thing, putting the needs of the many nefore the needs of the few. Kirk is heartbroken, and as they launch his coffin into space, it is caught in the gravity of the newly-forming planet, and lands on its surface. David Marcus comes to see that his father is not the devil-may-care adventurer that he has imagined him as, and reconciles with him.


McCoy: “Admiral, wouldn’t it be easier just to put an experienced crew on board the Enterprise?
Kirk: “Galloping around the cosmos is a game for the young, doctor.”

Kirk: “What do you think, Bones?”
McCoy: “Get your command back, Jim. Get it back before you turn into part of this collection: before you really do grow old.”

Saavik: “He’s (Kirk) so … human.”
Spock: “Nobody’s perfect, Saavik.”

Spock: “Lieutenant, have you ever piloted a ship out of spcedock before?”
Saavik: “Never, sir.”
Spock: “Take her out, Mister Saavik.”

Saavik: “May I speak, Sir?”
Kirk: “Self expression doesn’t seem to be one of your problems! You’re bothered by your performance on the Kobyashi Maru test.”
Saavik: “I failed to resolve the problem.”
Kirk: “There is no resolution: it’s a test of character.”
Saavik: “May I ask how you dealt with the test?”
Kirk: “You may ask. That’s a little joke.”
Saavik: “Humour: it is a difficult concept.”
Kirk: “We learn by doing.”

Spock: “The ship is yours.”
Kirk: “No that won’t be necessary. Just get me to Regula One.”
Spock: “As a teacher on a training mission I am content to lead.Iif we are to go into battle, it is clear that you should be in command.”
Kirk: “It may be nothing. Garbled transmission. You take the ship.”
Spock: “Jim, you proceed from a false premise. I am a Vulcan; I have no ego to bruise.”
Kirk: “You’re about to remind me that logic alone dictates your actions?”
Spock: “I would not remind you of that which you know so well. If I may make so bold, it was a mistake for you to accept promotion. Commanding a starship is your first, best destiny. Anything else is a waste of material.”
Kirk: “I wouldn’t presume to debate you.”
Spock: “That would be wise. In any case, were I to invoke logic, logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweighs the needs of the few.”
Kirk: “Or the one. “
Spock: “You are my superior officer. You are also my friend. I have been, and always shall be, yours.”
(An incredibly important speech. It points the way towards Spock’s later sacrifice and death, but also lays down a precept that will be followed, and quoted, in other movies of this franchise. But more than that, in a few short words at the end, the bond between Kirk and Spock, this human and Vulcan who shared three seasons of adventures in the late sixties, is forever reaffirmed, cemented and enshrined. In one sentence, the second movie does what the first completely failed to do: makes us see the characters, once again, as real people whom we care about, and reminds us that they care about each other too.)

Helmsman (Khan’s son?): “We’re all wth you sir, but consider this. We are free. We have a ship, and a means to go where we will. We have escaped permanent exile on Ceti Alpha V. You have proved your superior intellect and defeated the plans of Admiral Kirk. You do not need to defeat him again.”
Khan: “He tasks me! He tasks me, and I shall have him! I’ll chase him around the moons of Nemdia and round the Antares Maelstrom and round Perdition’s flames before I give him up!”
(So that’s a no, then?)

McCoy: “Dear God! To think we’re intelligent enough to --- what would happen if this device were used where there was already life?”
Spock: “It would destroy it, Doctor, in favour of the new matrix.”
McCoy: “Its new matrix? Do you have any idea what you’re saying?”
Spock: “I was not attempting to evaluate its moral implications, Doctor. As a matter of cosmic history, it has always been easier to destroy than create.”
McCoy: “Not any more! Now we can do both! According to myth, the Earth was created in six days. Now watch out! Here comes Genesis! We’ll do it for you in six minutes!”
Spock: “Really, Doctor, you must learn to govern your passions. They will be your undoing. Logic suggests…”
McCoy: “Logic! My God, the man’s talking about logic! We’re talking about universal Armageddon!”
(No, we're not! Have a lie down, Doctor!)

Khan: “Ah, Kirk, my old friend. Do you know the Klingon proverb that tells us that revenge is a dish best served cold? It is very cold in space!”

Kirk: “What is the meaning of this attack?”
Khan: “Surely I have made my meaning plain, Admiral? I have deprived your ship of power and when I swing about I intend to deprive you of your life.”

Scotty (with dead trainee in his arms): “He stayed at his post when the trainees ran!”
(Which teaches us a valuable lesson: it may be brave to stand and fight but you can continue living if you take to your heels!)

Spock: “Jim, be careful.”
McCoy: “We will!”

Kirk: “Captain Spock, damage report.”
Spock: “If we go by the book, Admiral, like Lieutenant Saavik, hours would seem like days.”
Kirk: “I read you Captain. Let’s have it.”
Spock: “The situation is grave, Admiral. We won’t have main power for six days. Auxilary power has temporarily failed. Restoration may be possible in two days. By the book, Admiral.”
Kirk: “Meaning you can’t even beam us back?”
Spock: “Not at present, Admiral.”
Kirk: “Captain Spock, if you don’t hear from us in one hour, your orders are to restore what power you can, take the Enterprise to the nearest starbase. Notify Starfleet once you are out of jamming range.”
(Very clever. Spock is using coded phrases to explain to Kirk that when he says days he means hours. Surprisingly, given the incongruity of the phrase “hours would seem like days” from a Vulcan, who would not be expected to use such flowery metaphors, Khan, despite his vaunted intellect, does not cotton on as he listens to the transmission.)

Khan: “I’ve done far worse than kill you. I’ve hurt you. And I wish to go on hurting you. I shall leave you as you left me, as you left her: on a lifeless moon, buried alive!”
Kirk: “Khhhaaannnnn!”
(Classic quote!)

Kirk: “There’s a man out there who I haven’t seen for fifteen years who wants to kill me. You show me a son who’d be happy to help him. My life that could have been. How do I feel? I feel old.”
Carol Marcus: “Let me show you something that will make you feel young again, as when the world was new.”

Kirk: “We tried it once your way, Khan: are you game for a rematch? Khan: I’m laughing at the superior intellect!”

Khan: “To the last will I grapple with thee. No, Kirk, you can’t get away. From Hell’s heart I stab at thee. For hate’s sake, I spit my last breath at thee!”
(Khan is obviously a fan of Moby Dick!)

Spock: “Ship … out of danger?”
Kirk: “Yes.”
Spock: “Don’t grieve, Admiral. It is logical. The needs of the many outweigh…”
Kirk: “The needs of the few.”
Spock: “Or the one. I never took the Kobyashi Maru test until now. What do you think of my solution?”
Kirk: “Spock…”
Spock: “I have been, and always shall be your friend. Live long and prosper.”

Spock’s eulogy, delivered by Kirk

“We are assembled here to pay final respects to our honoured dead. And yet, it should be noted that in the midst of our sorrow, this death takes place in the shadow of new life. The sunrise of a new world, a world that our beloved comrade gave his life to protect. He did not deem this sacrifice a vain or empty one, and we will not debate his profound wisdom at these proceedings. Of my friend all I can say is of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most … human.”
(I love the way Kirk’s voice breaks near the end; although he probably knew that Nimoy would be back, in a very real way Shatner was saying goodbye to his best friend, with whom he had shared the small screen for three years and the big for three. It must have been hard. And he reacts as you would expect the captain to react in the face of such horrible personal loss. It’s possibly the first time we’ve seen Kirk as less than indestructible, and uttery human, lost and alone in his private grief.

When I wrote this originally, we had not yet had the dire news of Leonard Nimoy's death, and now, as I publish it, this scene takes on an added poignancy.)

Kirk: “All is well, and yet, I can’t help thinking about the friend I leave behind. There are always possibilities, Spock said, and if Genesis is indeed life from death, I must return to this place again.”
(And there’s the out, but it’s handled very well and you can’t really hold it against the writers.)
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Old 03-09-2021, 02:26 PM   #33 (permalink)
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Houston, we have a problem!

A big one. When Chekov and Terrell meet Khan on Ceti Alpha V he recognises the ex-officer of the Enterprise, but the only time Khan came into contact with that ship was in the episode “Space seed”, and at that point Chekov was not a part of the crew, nor the cast. He could not recognise him, as he would never have met him before. This will be explored in much more depth as I use it as the central theme for another of the “Plot holes you could drive a Mack truck through” later in the year.

When Kirk asks Khan if he will keep his word, if they surrender the information on Genesis, Khan says he has given no word to keep. But he most assuredly has. Kirk has offered to have himself beamed over if Khan will spare his crew and Khan has agreed to do this, provided Kirk also sends over the information on Project Genesis. A rare (for this movie) piece of bad or lazy writing, forgetfulness or just another aspect of Khan’s slowly unhinging mind?

Another problem I have is that when Terrell and Chekov are turning on Kirk down on Regula (or I should say, in Regula!) Khan orders them to kill Kirk. Now, for a man so arrogant and single-minded, with an ego almost the match of Kirk’s, surely Khan would have wanted to kill him himself, not have an underling do it? What? Give up his revenge, after all this time? Lose the chance to squeeze the life out of his hated enemy with his own bare hands? Why not just have Terrell beam Kirk to the Reliant, where he could deal with him? Khan is not the sort of man who has others do his dirty work. Well, he is, but when it comes to Kirk there’s a very personal score to be settled, and you’d think he’d want to settle it, well, personally.

Kirk’s hubris

Once again, Kirk thinks he knows it all. As Picard would years later make the same almost-fatal mistake when approaching the first ever Borg cube and keeping his shield down, Kirk ignores Saavik’s recommendation that he should follow protocol, which requires that on approaching a ship with which communication has not been established, shields should be raised. This overconfidence and brash bravado almost costs him his ship. Had he followed her suggestion the ship would not have been as badly damaged as it is now, and the fight would have been less one-sided.


The most obvious of course is Moby Dick: Khan sees himself as Ahab, forever trying to bring down his enemy the great whale, but of course this is not accurate. Khan has not seen Kirk for fifteen years, has not been in a position to check on him, so that when he hears he has been made an admiral he is incensed. How dare Kirk, as he sees it, live the high life while he is left to scratch out a meagre living on this deserted desolate planet? But when he gets the chance to take him on, Khan is happy to expire while clutching his enemy to his bosom, so to speak. It doesn’t quite work out that way, of course.

The second parallel is the original episode, “Space seed”, in which a revived Khan tries to take over the Enterprise and kill Kirk, but is defeated and exiled. Khan has never forgotten or forgiven Kirk for this ignomnity. Not only the exile, not the hard existence he and his people have been forced to eke out for a decade and a half, but for the shame of losing to the man he sees as being far inferior to him. Khan has been brought up with the idea that he is the better man -- and he is, or was, in his century. But his ideas are a little outmoded now, and whereas he could only have ever dreamed of conquering Earth back in his time, now there’s the whole galaxy to bring under his heel.

Of course, he’s never going to manage it. The odds are stacked firmly against him. Even should he destroy Enterprise and make it away with the Genesis Device, Starfleet will hunt him and he can’t hide forever. Perhaps he would make alliances with the likes of the Klingons or the Romulans, the traditional enemies of the Federation, but even those races must see in the end they are dealing with a madman, and that is never a good bargain. His intellect and his lust for power could have taken him far in this new century, but despite his intelligence and his ability to learn so quickly, he is a man out of time, and this would eventually be his undoing. But he certainly goes out with a bang.


Unlike the previous movie, which tended to use the same basic theme throughout --- which became, as I mentioned, the theme for the series Star Trek: The Next Generation some years later --- James Horner’s first major score gives a feeling of cohesion to the music, as it changes as the scenes change and the situations develop. There’s an aura of seafaring adventure to the rolling, lilting theme he composed that would be retained, in one form or another, for the next number of movies. He also includes at the very start, and end, the original Star Trek theme, which ties everything together nicely. The themes for Spock and Khan are well observed, and the usage of “Amazing Grace” flowing into the Trek theme at the end is inspired. All over, were I to rate the themes this would get a solid 9 compared to TMP’s maybe 3. A huge improvement.

Themes and motifs

There are many, to be sure, among them the fear of advancing age, the realisation that you’re no longer young and cannot behave as you did back then. Kirk encapsulates this in the snapped comment “Galloping around the cosmos is a game for the young!” There is also a sense of loss --- Khan has lost his wife, Kirk has lost the son he could have been around to see grow up, perhaps the chance at a proper relationship with Carol Marcos. For much of the movie, Chekov and Terrell lose their free will, slaves to the creatures Khan has put in their heads.

Great loss, too, in the death of one of Kirk’s oldest friends, and even though it was well foreshadowed before the movie was even completed, and we know that there is an out at the end, with the third movie being titled The Search for Spock, it’s still a wrench to see a character we have followed through our early years on the television and come to identify as one of the great trademarks of this series, die at the end. The fact that he gives his life to save the ship both vindicates and confounds his logic, and we see that despite even himself, Spock is perhaps, as Kirk notes at the eulogy, more human than anyone he has ever met. Star Trek became noted, even jeered, for killing off characters only to bring them back again in a variety of increasingly implausible ways, but here was the first time a major character had died, and it hit us all hard.

Distrust is also there. David Marcus distrusts Starfleet. He is a scientist, as is his mother, and they have managed to create what they see as a great force for good and have been constrained to turn to the military for funding, and he believes their discovery can and will be subverted into a weapon. When he hears the purported order from Kirk to transfer all materials relating to the project to the approaching USS Reliant, he believes his mistrust was well placed.

But for me the main and overarching theme is one of revenge, not surprisingly. Khan believes that after fifteen years and against all odds, fate has delivered into his hands the means and opportunity to strike back at his old foe. Revenge for the death of his wife, and revenge for the defeat he was dealt by Kirk all those years ago. Kirk, too, is seeking revenge. This is, after all, the man who tried to kill him after the Enterprise rescued he and his people from floating in deep space in suspended animation. For that act of kindness --- had Kirk known what he later did, perhaps he would have left the Botany Bay drifting, or even destroyed it --- Khan tried to take over his ship. There is certainly a score to be settled.

Memorable scenes and effects

Of course, the most memorable scene will always be Spock’s death, which is in three acts really. The first begins when he hears Kirk say they need warp power or they’re all dead, and leaves his post. This continues into his sealing himself into the warp core chamber and replacing the crystals, thus giving his life for the ship and crew. Act II then is his reunion with Kirk as he lies dying, the ship saved but Spock beyond any help. It’s touching, emotional but not overblown, and Shatner acts one of the scenes of his life. Nimoy is gracious and reserved as ever, even making sure to stand when his captain arrives, and going so far as to pull at the hem of his tunic to straighten it, something that would become a habit of Jean-Luc Picard later.

The exchange between them, bringing full circle the “needs of the many” argument, is perfectly observed, and the attempts to touch each other’s palms through the glass almost heartbreaking. Important, too, is the scene where, just before going into the chamber and having used the Vulcan nerve pinch on McCoy, Spock places his palm to the doctor’s face and says “Remember”. That will come into play in the third movie. Act III of course is the burial-in-space scene, where Kirk does his best to hold his emotions in check as captain of the ship, and no doubt as a parting gesture of respect to his Vulcan friend, as he delivers the beautifully-written eulogy.

But other than the death of Spock, which comes after all right at the end, there are other memorable scenes here. The “WTF??!” moment, as it were, when Chekov sees the words “Botany Bay” in the hut, and realises who lives here. The battle in the Mutara Nebula, as each ship dances around the other, deprived of all sensors and shields, almost like modern troopers reduced to using bayonets and their own wits instead of HUD and heat-seeking missiles. The sequence showing how the Genesis Device works. Indeed, the opening scene, with the simulation, is very effective. Then there’s the malfunctioning transporter, a nice cameo for Grace Lee Whitney as Commander Janice Rand, the scene where Kirk is reunited with the son he left behind, and the horror-filmesque search through the silent Regula One space station before the crew find what remains of the scientists who have been butchered by Khan’s people.

Does this film deserve its reputation?

Of course it does. It’s easily seen as the best in the movie franchise --- at least, the original ten movies --- and deserves that accolade entirely. It’s a quantum leap from the first movie, with far better characterisation, a better plotline, space battles, an implacable foe, turning points for Kirk and of course the harrowing death of Spock. As a movie, this is pretty good. As a Star Trek movie, it stands head and shoulders above all the others. The music is far better, more fitting, the cast play their parts perfectly, Montalban is stunning as the maniacal Khan, and it acknowledges the series without making it absolutely necessary that you have seen that episode in order to be able to enjoy and understand the movie.

This was, literally, the movie that saved the franchise. After the disaster Star Trek: The Motion Picture became, there was no room for error here. A movie seldom gets a second chance, but this being Star Trek the producers were allowed to try again, with a smaller budget (which yielded far greater box office returns in the end) and a new premise, and they, as the Americans say, knocked it out of the park. Had this second movie failed, it’s unlikely there would have been a third, and from this on in, all future Star Trek movies would be measured against The wrath of Khan, and take their cue from it, keeping the easy humour, the sly wink to the audience in movies like The voyage home and The final frontier, and of course, The search for Spock. Sometimes, it went a little too far into the tongue-in-cheek idea, but thankfully there was never another rigid, stuffy, boring and slow movie as the first one. Lessons had been learned, and would be implemented as the franchise set course at full warp speed into another eight movies before being rebooted.

I could write pages more, but in the end the best I can do is award this movie the highest score I can:
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Old 03-10-2021, 10:31 AM   #34 (permalink)
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Name: Harry Kim
Race: Human
Born: Earth
Assignment: Ensign aboard USS Voyager (his first posting)
Marital status: Single
Family: John and Mary (seriously?) (Parents)
Important episodes: Caretaker, Non sequitur, Eye of the needle, Prime factors, Heroes and demons, Emanations, Deadlock, The Chute, Alter ego, Favourite son, Demon, The Disease, Fair Haven, Timeless, Nightingale, Prophecy, Endgame.

The eternal n00b, the constant rookie, Harry Kim began his active Starfleet career serving aboard Voyager but he had expected the tour of duty to be short, and is flabberghasted when he realises that he, along with the rest of the crew, are now stuck seventy thousand light years from home and that, in all probability, he will never get back to his old life again. He provides one half of a “buddy” relationship with the more outgoing and experienced Tom Paris, who essentially takes him under his wing and tries to teach him about life, though Paris himself is less interested really in his duties aboard ship than in what women he can score, an attitude which provides a perfect foil for Kim, the ensign always ready to please, always wanting to prove himself, always trying to do the right thing.

Throughout the series Kim remains as an ensign, while others, including Paris, are promoted. He does not however voice any protest about this, but one must assume he wonders why the captain does not see fit to reward his service, as he proves himself a capable officer time and again. He seems to be the one who’s always getting captured or abducted by aliens --- it happens several times in the series, in fact, it happened in the pilot episode --- and seldom has any love interest in his life. Like Riker, he plays an instrument, clarinet, though we don’t see him play it too often thank god. Paris’s loose cannon attitude often annoys him, and he tries to reverse the roles, attempting to teach Tom responsibility and duty.

Kim is killed in season two’s “Deadlock”, but a typical Voyager write-around has him replaced by an alternate version who then joins the crew and is accepted as “their” Kim. Should have left him dead. I must admit, I cheered when he was sucked out to space, but my cheers did not last long unfortunately. When Seven of Nine joins the crew he is initially suspicious of her --- not surprisingly: who would trust a Borg? --- but comes to be one of her friends and helps her with her attempts to understand humanity and regain her own, sometimes vicariously. He will however always be hated and despised by me, for creating, with Paris the “quaint” Irish village used in both the episode that bears its name, "Fair Haven” (expect to see that in the “When it rains” section!) and its sequel “Spirit folk”.

It is he though who discovers a micro-wormhole that could allow the Voyager crew to get back to their own quadrant, and creates the transwarp drive which allows them to attempt the journey in “Timeless”, resulting in the death of all but he and Chakotay, who make it home. Years later he manages to reset the timeline and those events never come to pass. In an alternative future (yeah, another one: what of it?) he is finally promoted to captain and has his own ship, however that timeline is also erased and so really he remains an ensign right to the end of the series.
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Old 03-10-2021, 10:43 AM   #35 (permalink)
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Title: The Enterprise Incident
Series: TOS
Season: Three
Writer(s): DC Fontana
Main character(s): Spock, Kirk
Plot: In an attempt to steal the new cloaking device and adapt it for Federation use, Kirk and Spock allow themselves to be captured by a Romulan commander. Spock, to whom she is attracted, appears to betray his captain and is allowed stay onboard as her consort, while Kirk is believed to be killed by his first officer.

This was one of those episodes where they hit all the right notes: although Shatner tries to steal the show it's very much a Spock episode, one of few, and indeed one of the only ones where we get any insight into his carefully-concealed emotions. The idea of Spock having a love affair --- in fact, of faking one to gain the advantage Kirk needs and give him time to steal the device --- is so alien to the series that it really hits home. We also get to see Spock “kill” Kirk, learn that the Vulcan does in fact have a first name, and experience a sexy Romulan commander who is ultimately betrayed by Spock. This is also one of the first times that the goody-goody Federation openly (well, covertly, but you know what I mean: it's authorised) engage in espionage against a race with whom they are not currently at war, and the episode has everything: sex, betrayal, death, cloak and dagger and Kirk in pointy ears!


Title: In the Pale Moonlight
Series: DS9
Season: Six
Writer(s): Peter Allan Fields and Michael Taylor
Main character(s): Sisko, Garak
Plot: The Federation is losing the war against the Dominion and reluctantly turns to their old enemies the Romulans to help them by joining the war. Fabricating evidence that the Changelings are planning to conquer Romulus, Garak gives Sisko a data rod which is in turn handed to a prominent Romulan senator. He however recognises it as fake, but on the way back to Romulus his ship is destroyed, thanks to a bomb put there by Garak. Soon afterwards, the Romulans join the war.

If DS9 ever reached a peak in mature writing, this was it. Sisko, ever the man to play by the rules and quote Starfleet regulations, is forced by circumstances into betraying everything he holds dear, into conspiring with the Cardassian Garak, whom he has never trusted but knows can get the job done. When it all goes pear-shaped and Sisko fears that their duplicity will in fact force the Romulans into an alliance with the Dominion, he discovers that the “ace in the hole” Garak has been holding is to ensure the senator's ship explodes. Once the data rod is recovered from the wreckage, its authenticity will not be questioned in the light of the “accident”, clearly an assassination, and the objective will have been achieved. A clearer case of one man facing Spock's remorseless logic of the “needs of the many” could not be made. A stupendous, brave, dark and utterly entrancing episode, one of the very finest in all the franchise.


Title: Phage
Series: VOY
Season: One
Writer(s): Timothy de Haas, Brannon Braga, Skye Dent
Main character(s): Neelix
Plot: When Neelix's lungs are somehow stolen (hooray!) Voyager pursues the thieves, only to uncover a massive organ harvesting operation and a race of people suffering from a generational plague which consumes their flesh.

Not in fairness a brilliant episode, although the sheer joy of seeing Neelix lying close to death, unable to breathe and then later being told by the Doctor that he will have to remain motionless for the rest of his life (YES!) is worthy of its inclusion by itself. But what is striking about this episode is the double standard portrayed within the writing. Initially we see a race of aliens who are callously harvesting organs from any lifeform who has what they need, then later we learn they are doing this because of a disease which afflicts them and necessitates constant replacement of their organs. Janeway makes an interesting decision at the end, allowing the alien who has taken Neelix's lungs to retain them, unwilling to kill him for one of her crewmembers. Later on, when she toughened up, she would not be expected to do this. But then again, it was only Neelix, after all!


Title: Sins of the Father
Series: TNG
Season: Three
Writer(s): Ronald D. Moore, Drew Deighan, W. Reed Moran
Main character(s): Worf, Picard
Plot: Worf's father has been named by the Empire as a traitor, and the son of Mogh must travel to the homeworld to answer this charge. What he uncovers turns out to be a nest of vipers, a web of betrayal and a code of silence that will lead to death being pronounced upon his own head.

A great Worf episode, which tells us much more about Klingon culture and introduces us to a Klingon who will become, for a time, Worf's nemesis, as later will his sisters. It is in fact the father of Duras who is proven finally to be the traitor but in a totally shock ending Worf must shoulder the blame and be shunned by all Klingons. The unexpected conclusion comes as something of a hammerblow: just as you think, this is Trek: all charges dropped and home in time for Earl Grey --- hot! --- well no. The twist is painful and hard to take, and will have severe repercussions for Worf and his family for another season, and as mentioned the Duras sisters will become a thorn in the Federation's side with the death of their brother. There's also some action-man stuff for Picard, and we learn that Worf has a brother. Great stuff and the final scene, as Picard and Worf stride from the chamber of the High Council, with every Klingon back --- even his own brother's --- turned away from him, is both chilling and stunning.


Title: Mirror, Mirror
Series: TOS
Season: Two
Writer(s): Jerome Bixby
Main character(s): Spock, Kirk
Plot: A transporter accident opens a rift in space/time and Kirk and his intrepid landing party find themselves on the ISS Enterprise, in a harsh, brutal alternate universe where force is the watchword and there is no such thing as compromise or compassion. Here, Kirk meets this universe's counterpart of Spock and tries to show him how he can change this world for the better.

I just love this episode! What a clever idea. Building on the already-explored theme of an “evil Kirk” in the laughable “The enemy within”, this time we see a whole universe of evil Trek counterparts, with Sulu a sadist who enjoys enforcing discipline on the ship and vies for Kirk's job, McCoy finding a sickbay he describes as more like a torture chamber, and Spock with a beard! The idea that we're all one step away from chaos and brutality is well portrayed here, as everyone in the “Mirror universe” does what they have to to survive, while back on the “real” Enterprise “bad” Kirk and his crew are dumbfounded by the changes they see: “Where's my personal guard?” roars “bad” Kirk. The Mirror universe, and the events that unfold in this episode, would be revisited in later episodes of Deep Space 9.

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Old 03-10-2021, 10:44 AM   #36 (permalink)
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Name: Cardassia Prime
Alignment: non-Federation, hostile
Home to: Cardassian race
Capital City: Cardassia City
Orbital star: Cardassia, Class K

Once a lush, verdant and arable planet, Cardassia suffered a natural catastrophe which devastated its surface and turned forests and hills into desert. The planet has little in the way of minerals and so a great famine descended, worsened by the military seizing power and ploughing all the planet’s finances into their war with the Federation. Cardassians are notoriously devious and mistrustful, and an air of paranoia cloaks everything they do. This can be seen (or could be, prior to the almost destruction of the planet and the elimination of its populace at the end of the Dominion War) in the huge viewscreens that frown down from many buildings, as the feared Obsidian Order makes no secret about its ubiquitous surveillance of its people. Orwellian is the word that springs to mind, and the people live in fear and dread of the knock on the door in the dead of night.

Despite the unremitting grey sameness of much of the architecture and the barren expanse that proliferates outside the walls of the cities, there is much beauty to be found on Cardassia, such as the Mekor Wilderness, where the rocks form into sublime shapes and there are subterranean caverns. The State Intelligence uses this area as a place to train its recruits, and maintains an institute there. Unwary travellers though may fall prey to the Honge, a huge flying pterodactyl-like creature, or even the Mekarian sawtooth, a carnivorous plant native to the region. There is also one rainforest remaining on the planet, and its location in Morfan Province makes it a popular destination for Cardassian holidaymakers.
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Old 03-11-2021, 05:07 AM   #37 (permalink)
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Commander Jadzia Dax, played by Terry Farrell

Dax is a trill, a symbiotic life form that can live a very long time --- hundreds, maybe thousands of years --- and is transplanted from host body to host body as each wears out or dies. Jadzia is the latest host, and in keeping with trill tradition she takes the alien’s surname, becoming Jadzia Dax, most often referred to as Dax. She serves aboard the space station Deep Space 9 under Commander (later Captain) Ben Sisko, whom she knows from her days of being implanted in the host body of the previous donor, a warrior named Curzon. Because of his long relationship with Curzon, and out of respect to the trill, Sisko often refers to Jadzia as “old man”, which is a little confusing. Initially, Jadzia is pestered by Doctor Julian Bashir, who falls in love with her, but eventually she falls for Worf, the Klingon security chief of DS9, and marries him.

Again, somewhat like Uhura and unlike most of the TNG females, Dax is treated almost like a man (given that she has the trill inside her and that all previous hosts were male, this is not that surprising) and acts quite the tomboy. She rarely seems to indulge in feminine trappings or be interested in feminine things, other than her romantic interests. She plays games of skill and chance at Quark’s with the abandon and acceptance of any other man, and she can fight and protect herself as well as any of them. She frequently leads missions, holding the rank originally of Lieutenant and then later Lieutenant Commander, and having her special relationship with Sisko gives her access to the station’s commander she might otherwise not have.

Dax is killed in the finale of the sixth season by Gul Dukat, but though Jadzia dies the symbiont is saved and later transplanted into another host body, who carries it through the final season to the conclusion of the show. After her heroics and sacrifice, Worf believes his late wife has earned her place in Sto’vo’kor, the Klingon heaven, somewhat equivalent to Valhalla, even though she herself is not of Klingon blood.
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Old 03-11-2021, 05:16 AM   #38 (permalink)
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While it's certainly up there in the top three of the Trek movies, and I do like the theme, I just kind of find this one a little less Trekky (is that a word? It is now!) than other movies that came before it. And after it. I mean, I dig what the guy is trying to do, with the fanfare at the start then diverting off into a totally different sort of theme, but it just does not say Star Trek to me. Mind you, some of the others don't either, but this just sounds like it could be the theme for Titanic or something. Also, it's nowhere near as ominous and dark as the soundtrack to a movie like this should be. This was one of the first --- the first, really --- dark and bleak Star Trek movies, and though it had its funny and lighter moments, generally it dealt with one man's obsession and his attempts to come to terms with that before it tore him apart. This music .... does not communicate that inner struggle to me.

Which is why it's only at number

This needed a big, booming, droning, snarling anthem, something you could get your teeth into; something that, frankly, scared the shit out of you. Maybe not quite a horror theme as such, but something dark, heavy, oppressive. This is way too light and does not convey anything about how the movie actually pans out. Jerry Goldsmith, a veteran of Trek themes, apparently used a “pastoral, friendly theme to represent the hope of humanity's first contact”. Bollocks. I wanted big, crunching, scary, growling Borg music. Up yours Jerry! Fail.
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Old 03-11-2021, 05:32 AM   #39 (permalink)
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#2: Revenge is a dish best served ... hot?

“Reunion”, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season four, episode seven.
This is K'Eylar.

She is Worf's mate, and has brought onboard the Enterprise the son he did not know he had, though during the course of the episode she turns down his offer of marriage, much to his consternation and dismay. Meanwhile, K'mpec, High Chancellor of the Empire, is dying and two council members are vying for his seat. As K'mpec, impressed with his performance as Worf's second in “Sins of the father”, has chosen Picard as the arbiter of succession, the Klingons rendezvous with the Enterprise, that the choice may be made.

That choice is between Gowron and Duras. Worf knows Duras of course, as it is his father who sold out his own people at Khitomer to the Romulans, and he who framed Worf for the traitorous act, condemning him to Discommendation, meaning that Worf is looked on as a pariah in Klingon society. Nobody will even speak to him or look at him. Worf has much to hate Duras for.

During the rite of arbitration a bomb goes off, and is determined to be of Romulan origin. It is also found to have been on one of Duras's men. Researching into this, and by extension the circumstances under which Worf was tried as a traitor, K'Eylar uncovers the truth but then runs afoul of Duras.

Not about to allow his shame to be made public, much less his chances of becoming chancellor ruined, Duras kills K'Eylar.

When Worf finds her dying, and she tells him who killed her, he confronts his enemy on board his ship, demanding the Klingon "Rite of Vengeance".

Duras snarls that a traitor such as Worf has no right of vengeance, but Worf then says four words that change everything in Klingon law: “K'Eylar was my mate.” You can immediately see the words “Oh fuck!” in the expression that suddenly flits across the traitor's face.

He knows he is for it now. With no other choice, he engages Worf in combat but like most cowards he is a bad fighter, and at the end, tries to use what G'Kar called “enlightened self-interest” to save his life, telling Worf that if he kills him, there will be no way to prove that Worf is after all not a traitor. His efforts fail though: Worf is in a cold blood rage and kills Duras.

Understanding why he did what he did, but unable to condone it as acceptable behaviour for a Starfleet officer, Picard reprimands Worf and tells him if he cannot obey Starfleet rules he should resign. Worf chooses to remain aboard the Enterprise, but with a black mark against him.

This episode is quite pivotal in many ways. It wraps up the events of “Sins of the father” by allowing Worf to take revenge on the man who blackened his name, but it does not clear him, as he remarks to Picard: “Many of the council members shared in that lie. They will not be so willing to come forward now.”

By killing Duras, even if it is as a by-product of his revenge and not intended to benefit the other party in the contest, Worf has made a lifelong friend and ally of Gorwon, who now assumes the seat unchallenged. Worf has proven that, like most of us I think, when it comes to love all bets are off and rules be damned. This will not be the last time he puts his heart and his honour above his duty to Starfleet.

The other major thing to come out of this episode of course is that Worf is suddenly, and unexpectedly a father. He is not prepared for this, and it will create many bumps in the road ahead for him, but lead to a liaison with Deanna Troi and a better understanding of what it is to be a parent, and how hard it must have been for his own foster parents, bringing him up.

With Duras dead, you would think that would be the end of it. You would be wrong...
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